The people of Sierra Leone have shown that religious differences do not need to create crises but rather religions can come together and help solve a countries crisis.
With a religious breakdown of approximately 70% Muslim and 30% Christian, Sierra Leone has twice in recent history shown the world how religions can work together.
In 1991, a brutal decade long civil war began in Sierra Leone. The impact on the population was unimaginable. Women being raped, families displaced, and young boys forced to become child soldiers. Many were offered the choice of “short-sleeves” or “long-sleeves.” Accordingly either their hand was chopped off or their arm was cut off up to their elbow. Nearly 50,000 people lost their lives during the conflict and 27,000 became amputees.
In order to help bring this suffering to an end, in 1997 the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) was formed. HealeyIRF Advisor, Reverend Father Peter Konteh, was one of those religious leaders who helped establish the Council. The IRCSL was an integral part of the peace architecture. It facilitated dialogue between the Government of Sierra Leone and the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. In 2002, the civil war ended. The cooperation, however, continued as interfaith groups worked to support those individuals impacted by the war.
Interfaith efforts help end Ebola crisis
When Ebola came with a vengeance to Sierra Leone in 2014 the interfaith network sprang into action and began community outreach. In Sierra Leone, religious leaders are trusted and their advice followed. In particular, their outreach and social mobilization in their communities is credited with saving lives and helping bring the Ebola epidemic to an end.
Now after Ebola, interreligious cooperation and dialogue is a focus of our efforts to support Ebola survivors.
Recently a rice distribution on June 10th to Ebola survivors in Tower Hill again brought together interfaith groups. The Catholic Church, Islamic Community, Christian Pentecostal Church, and the Buddhist Community provided rice to 1,251 vulnerable individuals from all faiths.
As Father Peter said at this event, “All the world’s religions have one thing in common – love.”
Sierra Leone and its people continue to demonstrate that interfaith efforts, based on love, have lasting results.
Pictured above front row (L-R): Archbishop Edward T. Charles-Catholic Church, Apostle Dora Dumbuya-Christian Pentecostal Church, Sheik Fomba Swaray-Islamic Community. Back row (L-R): Ishmeal Alfred Charles-HealeyIRF, Father Peter Konteh-Caritas-Freetown, Victor Ndanema-Lanyi Foundation, Steve Fomba-Tzu Chi Foundation, Ben Parra-HealeyIRF.
Getting along with one another isn’t meant to be difficult.